Monday, November 29, 2010

Relief for the Eyes-Wide-Shut-Syndrome!

Just exactly what is the eyes-wide-shut-syndrome? I would describe this as not seeing what is right in front of you. We are all so busy with everything and anything⎯we do not realize we have fallen into this blind pattern of living. We do not take the time to be more aware of what we may be seeing or even feeling. We have forgotten how to bring awareness into our lives.

I define awareness as a state of consciousness. Something many of us seem to have little of these days⎯we do not make space for awareness. I know, who has time to make space, right? But if you are not aware, it is like going through life with your eyes closed⎯thus, eyes-wide-shut-syndrome. Anyone in this condition would be missing a lot and probably making some bad decisions along the way. I am making a point to allow space for awareness in my life and finding it is not all that difficult to do.

In dealing with health issues and life issues over the past few years, I am discovering a sense of peace amidst the storm of everyday living by creating more awareness in my life. The one common element to creating awareness is simply making a point to pay attention to what I am feeling, doing, thinking and saying. This one simple step has changed how I go about living my life. It slows me down and helps me focus. I am finding I can be a better person to others and myself by being more aware. Putting emphasis on paying attention doesn’t cost a thing and takes a split second to do. So now you don’t need to worry about scheduling awareness into your day⎯just do it.

Creating awareness takes practice. It seems the more focus you give it, the easier it gets. Although, when you take away the focus, it is just as easy to slip back to your old eyes-wide-shut ways. And that is going to happen, but you can quickly remedy the blindness you create. Make space⎯create awareness⎯find peace!

Here are three ideas to get you started:
  1. If you are trying to do a number of things at the same time⎯stop⎯focus on one thing. You will find you not only get more done, you do a better job!
  2. You are sitting in traffic and fuming⎯stop⎯pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking then ask yourself if it’s worth the fuming.
  3. You are about to say something you probably shouldn’t even think about saying⎯stop⎯by bringing awareness to what you are about to say, you will find yourself choosing your words a bit more carefully or not saying anything at all.
Feel free to share a few of your own thoughts on this topic…

 Copyright 2010 Michelle Clark
Special thanks to Andrew Bossi for the eyes picture

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Attitude Shake-Up

I am already hearing people bemoan the fact Christmas is upon us. My friend, Anita, said she would just like to fast-forward and get it over with! Sound familiar? I understand those sentiments, but no longer feel so utterly negative about the whole thing. I am now able to focus on the concept of “less is more” and not get caught up in the stress of the season. I have found I am able to enjoy what I do and appreciate those people I spend time with even more so. Over the years, I have shared with others how I approach the holidays, and now I’ll share a few insights and ideas with you.

First ⎯It all boils down to expectations. Who do we have to blame for those outrageous expectations? Could you be thinking of Norman Rockwell’s, Freedom from Want picture (Thanksgiving Dinner), published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943? Or perhaps you have been looking at all the magazines with the lovely holiday settings. Just stop that right now! If anyone is going to take the blame it should be YOU. You can’t do anything about anyone else’s expectations, but you can about your own.

Second⎯Before you become holi-dazed, sit down and make a list of everything you think you need to do throughout the holiday season by category, then fill in the details under each category. Before you start getting a headache, move on quickly...

Third⎯Cross at least one detail off the list under each category, and yes you can! Heck, go ahead and cross off a whole category if you are feeling really empowered. I know you want to, so I’m going to give you permission to cross off an entire category. There, you have no one to blame but me⎯you’ll thank me for it! Remember, the idea is doing less of everything. Here are a few general thoughts to set you on your way:

Holiday Cards⎯If you are sending cards to everyone you ever knew or had a conversation with, listen up. Try sending cards to only those people you rarely see. If you still want to touch base with others, send an e-card. Or send only e-cards and sometime in the next month or so call those people you rarely see⎯they would love it! Lastly, you are not obligated to send holiday cards just because you receive them!

Gifting⎯My, oh my, has this one gotten out of hand over the years. You still have time to contact people and stop the insanity. Here are a few ideas: pick names and set a spending limit, one gift per family, gift to only children under a particular age, request donations be sent to a favorite charity or simply⎯no gifting.

Baking⎯You know this only packs on calories and gives everyone a sugar high, so just cut back.

Decorating⎯Your home does not need to look like a magazine spread. It takes an entire design staff to fill those pages.

Parties⎯You do not need to attend everything you are invited to.

Basically, focus on what is really important to you and your loved ones and forget the rest. It is just not worth it to you, or anyone coming in contact with you, to do otherwise! Treat the holidays as a state of mind that may need an attitude adjustment. Your loved ones may not understand the new changes, but in the end⎯they will come around, and just possibly embrace them. Don’t focus on the traditions of the past if they are the ones driving you crazy. There are no laws stating traditions must remain the same. Set yourself free and before you know it you will have created new traditions.

As you go through your holiday to-do list this year, make notes on what you might want to change next year. Every year you can work just a little harder at making changes and doing less until you have turned your holiday negativity into holiday magic⎯something you look forward to. The important thing here is to just BE and let the joy of the season set you a new path. It is up to YOU to shake things up a bit.

Feel free to share your ideas by selecting the comments box. In case you are not familiar with commenting on this blog, I receive all comments for review prior to posting. If you want to just comment to me, ask me not to share and it won’t be posted. So, let’s get the party started and help my friend Anita shake things up a bit with an attitude adjustment. How have you simplified your holidays or what do you most like to do? I am going to list a few more ideas to contemplate:
  • Pick one thing you would really love to do and put your heart into it.
  • When you have finished deleting items on your to-do list, think about adding something you’ve always wanted to do but have never had the time.
  • Leave town and the holidays behind.
  • You could always celebrate the holidays when the weather and traffic are better. How about Christmas in July?

© Copyright Michelle Clark 2010
Special thanks to Ben McLeod for the broken ornaments picture

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pursuing Happiness

Just what is happiness? A few words that come to my mind are contentment, joy and bliss. The mere thought of those words fills me with instant peace. You can’t fake any of those feelings like you might when you merely slap a smile on your face. Remember, smiles are only skin-deep unless happiness is truly felt from within. I used to be an expert at slapping a smile on my face. It was easy, I’m basically one of those naturally smiley types, so it was very easy for me to fake it and get away with it. Does the faking it ring a bell for you?

While working in an office a number of years ago, I was essentially smacked in the head by the realization of what a smile means. I preferred getting to work a few minutes early to have a bit of quiet time to organize my thoughts. I didn’t appreciate any conversation before my workday began. It was how I would “get in the zone” for the day ahead. As I walked down the hall passing Jim, my boss, I made eye contact with him, mumbled a quick, “Good morning,” and proceeded on my way. He stopped, turned around and said, “Where is that smile of yours?” I turned around and snapped, “Who crowned me Miss Perky and why do I have to smile constantly?” A sad smile instantly spread out across his face as he said, “Sometimes that smile is the only thing that gets me through the day around here.” I immediately melted into a heartfelt smile and apologized to him. You see, we were both unhappy with our jobs at the time, and I understood where he was coming from. I’ve never forgotten that moment. You just never know where happiness grows. It made me look at happiness and smiling in a whole new light. After that exchange, I made an effort to feel happiness whenever I flashed that smile of mine; although, it took me a few more years to understand what true happiness can mean.

By paying more attention to my life and my needs, I’ve been swept away with a tide of happiness. Now, that doesn’t mean I’ve been crowned Miss Perky at all. That would be one heavy crown to wear! Happiness has become a feeling that pervades my entire life. It surfaces in everything I feel and in everything I do. No, you can’t fake it. Besides, you may be fooling some people, but you cannot fool yourself. Thinking you are happy and being happy may just be two different realities, and there is only one reality that is genuine. I am choosing to BE happy.

Is pursuing happiness even on your “to-do” list? If it is and you are still not happy then perhaps you only think you are pursuing happiness and you need new direction. Take note the next time you feel amazingly happy and ask yourself why, then do the same thing when you are not so happy. When I started doing this I learned more about what made me happy in the first place. I started to examine what made me unhappy and was determined to make changes. I was paying more attention to my needs and started to ask the right questions.

Begin with a heartfelt smile and remember⎯happiness will grow on its own if you start asking the right questions. This is actually a baby step in creating awareness in your life. Create the space in your life to just be and let the happiness overcome you like a wave on the ocean. I’m happy to report that neither Jim nor I work for that company anymore. We have found contentment, joy and bliss in the new directions of our lives, and you can’t fake that!

 Copyright 2010 Michelle Clark
Special thanks to Duncan Rawlins for wave picture

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Joys of MiraLAX®

I’ve been busy this week with a two-day colonoscopy prep and subsequent colonoscopy. I have been having difficulties with constipation over the last two years, and more noticeably since December of last year when I had a rather bad Crohn’s episode. Since this is not about Crohn’s episodes, let’s just say it was a major gut-cramping event where I end up in bed and take medication to relax the muscles and knock me out. After that point, I had increasing problems with constipation. This seemed to come to a head mid-June of this year when I had yet another Crohn’s episode. This one left me unable to move anything through my bowels without drinking a ton of prune juice.

It usually takes my gut a couple of weeks to recover from an episode and get the eating and bowel movements somewhat in sync. After three weeks then four, I began trying all sorts of things to get on top of the horrible gas buildup in my gut. I liken it to the beast in the movie Alien attempting to burst out of the body of one of the characters. After contacting my gastroenterologist, he suggested using MiraLAX®. He mentioned this when I saw him in the spring, but I have tried to stay away from anything in the laxative family and had not used it to date. Yes laxatives work in a bind, but you can become dependent on them if you use them over an extended amount of time. Since I was starting to turn brown from all the prune juice I was drinking, or maybe I was just full of…well, you figure it out! I tried the MiraLAX®. Laaaaaaaaa, happy days! It was amazing. Thus began months of trying to figure out just how much of this miracle powder I would need to keep my bowels moving.

Now that you have a little background, and perhaps more information than you really wanted to know, fast forward to the present. Months of working with the MiraLAX®, like a mad scientist, had not brought me any closer to coming up with a solution to the ratio of MiraLAX® to pooping. It had been over four years since my last colonoscopy and I was due, so my poop doc took a look. The results of the test were not surprising. Other than the fact I have Crohn’s, I had a benign polyp removed and have found I have a “tortuous colon.” Due to the fact I do not eat enough fiber, my colon has lengthened and twisted a bit. This condition can lead to intestinal blockage, which is never a good thing. I’ve always had problems moving fiber through my digestive system, and have been concerned with causing a blockage. MiraLAX® is an osmotic-type of laxative, which holds more water in your digestive system allowing the stool to soften, and is neither a stimulant nor bulk-forming laxative. It may pave the way for a number of IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) sufferers. It is now available over the counter and in generic form at most drug stores, including by the barrel at Costco! So now I am suppose to not only add more fiber, but also add more MiraLAX® than I had been taking. After every meal, I’m to have what I am calling my MiraLAX® digestif. Interestingly, digestifs are served at the end of the meal to aid digestion⎯usually a liqueur, brandy or fortified wine, but in my case MiraLAX®. So now I can begin to enjoy eating more fiber and know that somewhere in my gut everything is moving smoothly, and I have put the Alien to rest. My dear soapbox-carrying acupuncturist will be happy to know this. I’m on my way to Costco. Cheers!

© Copyright Michelle Clark 2010